Sochua’s Ex-Assistant Arrested for Allegedly Funding Local Opposition

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Oeur Narith, a former CNRP public affairs officer (Licadho)

Police arrested another ex-CNRP activist on Sunday, accusing party vice president Mu Sochua’s former assistant of collecting money from abroad to fund a local movement to overthrow the government.

Oeur Narith, a former CNRP public affairs officer, was arrested in Phnom Penh on Sunday and charged with plotting, according to municipal police spokesperson San Sokseyha.

Sokseyha claimed that Narith began to funnel funds to local activists of the outlawed party in 2019, and continued till the day he was arrested.

“What we actually saw is a focus on collecting funds for activists, gathering activists to hold a plan to topple the government,” Sokseyha said, though he declined to say how much money was involved.

National Police spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun said Narith was accused of distributing money sent from overseas, but also declined to give specifics.

“It wouldn’t be possible to conduct activities with just $100 or $200,” Kim Khoeun said. “Otherwise, people who operate money exchanges would all have been arrested.”

If convicted, Narith faces five to 10 years in prison.

In 2014, he was arrested for participating in an “insurrection” in relation to a protest against the closure of Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park, alongside five CNRP parliamentarians, including Sochua. The demonstration followed widespread protests over alleged irregularities in the previous year’s national election.

Narith was sentenced to 20 years in jail in 2015 but was pardoned and released in 2018, after the Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP and the ruling CPP won all 125 seats in the National Assembly.

On Monday, Sochua said Narith had not participated in politics since his release, and rejected the claim that he was funneling money to a local movement.

Narith was trying to start a new life by opening up a coffee shop, she said.

“The Hun Sen government is making it a crime against anyone having contact with CNRP when they have no other excuses to arrest innocent people,” Sochua said in a message.

She said Narith — and other former party members — could not have a future if they were labeled as being part of the opposition.

“The regime wants to break the spirit and determination of our youths but democracy will prevail. The more youths are added to the Prey Sar list, the harder the resistance. This is the case in countries under dictatorship,” she said, referring to Prey Sar Prison in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia has seen a renewed crackdown on opposition supporters in recent months, including 28 summoned for questioning in Kampong Cham, a former activist in Kampot sentenced to five years in jail for plotting, and seven others put on trial in Tbong Khmum. The verdict for the seven in Tbong Khmum is due on Tuesday, and Sochua said she expected as many as 100 CNRP members to show their support at the provincial court. At least 10 youth activists have also been arrested since August in connection to protests both online and in the streets.

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